The field of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates continues to grow and as it does, the opportunity for the prospects to differentiate themselves from the field shrinks.

With 10 declared candidates already — and at least three more likely announcements from Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Beto O’Rourke — Democrats will have a large swathe of major candidates vying for a pool of delegates to get the nomination and face off against Donald Trump.

Democrats had it a little easier in 2016. Hillary Clinton represented the establishment wing of the Democratic Party and what passes these days for moderation. Bernie Sanders took up for the now-dominant progressive wing of the party, while Jim Webb and Martin O’Malley represented the boredom wing and didn’t last very long.

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Democrats, especially primary voters, won’t have that luxury this time around. Senators Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris have all announced their candidacy and, from an overall perspective, occupy the same space as Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke, despite the demeanour and media coverage of a moderate.

How will they all compete for the same voters? 

At a debate where all of the candidates are asked, “Who supports Medicare-for-all?” and all the hands go up (save for Biden who will laughingly have to defend Obamacare as moderate legislation), which will voters choose?

On the key issue of the environment and climate change, Senators Klobuchar, Warren, Booker, Gillibrand and Harris have all signed on to Alexandria Ocasio-Ortiz’s Green New Deal, a resolution that promises to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions within 10 years. 

Other progressive policies including tuition-free college, college student loan relief, tax increases and more are all on the table. Elizabeth Warren went even further, offering up an annual two per cent “wealth tax” on household wealth (not income) that exceeds $50m — and all that is just for now. Who knows what else candidates will propose in the upcoming months?

One doesn’t require a Magic 8-ball to know what the answer to the question, “Down the road, will this become a mess for Democrats?” The scenario with all these candidates vying for the attention of progressive or simply anti-Trump primary voters will come to resemble a smash-up derby with each one attempting to “out-left” the others. 

It will look similar to the 2016 GOP primary. The positions of people like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush and others didn’t vary all that much. But people went with their preferred candidate, and it wound up helping Donald Trump more than he could have imagined. 

It appears as though the 2020 Democratic race will shape up the same way. There’s not much daylight between Cory Booker and Kamala Harris on the issues, and the same goes for Amy Klobuchar and Kirsten Gillibrand. Joe Biden will look to corral moderate votes among a primary electorate that continues to push left. 

In the end, the Democratic fight for the nomination may well come down to geography. The search for delegate-rich states within a Democratic primary won’t be about which one really supports the Green New Deal, but about which one can make a pitch in certain states early enough to knock out several candidates.

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Don’t be surprised if some of them make several trips to Iowa but skip out on trips to New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — all in February. The big date is 3 March, aka ‘Super Tuesday.’ It includes nine states, representing a wide variety from coast-to-coast including Massachusetts, California (in 2016, it was in June), Virginia, North Carolina and Texas. 

It could make for some interesting politicking among the candidates. 

While Democratic talking heads and pundits are undoubtedly thrilled at the number of Democratic candidates and the fact that it represents a very diverse field of people, Democratic officials, while putting on a good face, are probably not all that enamoured with the idea of a field of more than a dozen candidates battling it out to face Trump. 

Two words exist that have Democratic officials waking up in the middle of the night: “brokered convention.” Should a nominee fail to obtain all of the necessary delegates in the primaries, the candidate may ultimately be chosen at the Democratic National Convention in 2020. 

A contested primary election is going to be a wild affair on its own. Hold on to your hats if the delegates at the convention have to make the final call. 

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